A bugler from the 3rd U.S. Marine Aircraft Wing Band plays “Taps” at the Ronald Reagan Memorial site after a Feb. 6, 2009, ceremony honoring the anniversary of Reagan?s birth at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Torrey W. Lee/Released)

In this age of the Obama regime cutting budgets in places where it matters and instead spending freely on government handouts, we bring you a delightful, heart-warming story from The Weekly Standard of a old musician who organized a network of qualified buglers to blow Taps live at military funerals instead of relying on boomboxes or “electronic” bugles to blow the last twenty-four notes the deceased will ever hear.

We’ve reached out to Mr. Day to invited him down to speak at one of our meetings.

Here’s the story.

Berwyn, Ill. (The Weekly Standard) – Tom Day is not a man given to extravagance. He thinks he’s living high on a reporter’s nickel if he orders a beef sandwich to go at the local Buona sub shop. He shops at Goodwill every Sunday, hoping to pick up bargains, like his handsome $35 suits. But if there’s one superfluity that Day especially can’t abide, it is that of empty rhetoric.

…They are words that actually require something of him, the dwindling resource you can’t buy more of: time. For the 73-year-old former Marine serves those who serve. Or rather, he serves those who have served. Day is the man who, both on his own and through the 7,500-plus volunteers in the organization he founded, Bugles Across America, has saved the tradition of playing live “Taps” at military funerals.

…Doing the math, one figures Day has spent a good three solid years of his life standing at the gravesides of strangers, blowing the last 24 notes they’ll ever have played for them above ground.

But what to some might seem like a nice gesture or a morbid hobby was transformed into high calling in 2000. It was then that federal legislation passed stipulating that every honorably discharged veteran had the right to at least two uniformed military personnel to fold and present the flag, and to sound “Taps” at their funeral. Day thought this was good. The bad news, the fine print added, was that if a bugler could not be found, a recording should be used.

Finding a live bugler proved a mathematical impossibility. With 1,800 vets dying every day (at one point, World War II veterans were dying at the rate of one every two minutes), the military had only 500 buglers to share the load. Day estimates there’s considerably fewer now, with general cutbacks and sequestration. Honor guards were thus initially directed to bring boom boxes to funerals, looking to stealthily place CD players behind tombstones, as they prayed the disc didn’t skip or scratch, that the batteries didn’t fail, or worst of all, that instead of “Taps,” they hit the wrong track and accidentally played “Reveille.” “Sounds funny, but it’s happened,” Day growls.

To add greater insult, the Defense Department then introduced what it calls “ceremonial bugles.” In the venerable Pentagon procurement tradition of the $435 hammer or the $600 toilet seat, the digital bugles cost $530 a throw, and many purists/people-with-taste consider them abominations. Day’s volunteers, when they call them anything printable, tend to refer to these as “fake bugles,” while Day himself just calls it “The Device.” As one Navy musician tells me, “This is it, it’s the last song. Your veteran is dead. And it looks like you’re playing him off with something from Toys’R’Us.”

There’s more and it just gets better and better.

Day sounds like one of our kind.  Reading the whole story, you’ll see why we’ve reached out to him to come speak to one or more of our meetings.

4 thoughts on “The Last Twenty-four Notes”
  1. Tickle down ideas for the hidden one in the bathroom at Whithe house. Next at all functions BYO rap music for the functions from hollywood elites.

  2. I would be more than honorred to buy Mr. Tom Day a beef from Buona.
    It would be the least I could do for a true Patriot.

  3. My high school had a program like this. Trumpet players from the band volunteered to bugle for the VFW/American Legion details. I was one of the ones that volunteered straight away. My opinion was that it was what I could do for men that had done more than I could imagine.

    There was one great upside: the guys that I got to hand out with. Most all were Korea and Vietnam vets (with a few WW2 vets as well) and were lead by a Marine from the Korean conflict. They were the greatest men I had the opportunity to meet during my high school years. It was an honor to get to spend the time with them that I did. Many of them were gun guys and several times I heard the comment from a couple of the Korea era vets, “No way would I go in the Army nowadays . . . they give you some little plastic peashooter instead of a real rifle!” What was great was that they didn’t seem to mind a young guy like me hanging around with them and welcomed me in to their group . . . maybe it was just the fact that a few kids from my generation actually gave a damn.

    The worst part of it was, towards the end of my high school time, I was doing funeral details for men that I’d been shooting the bull with just a few months prior. It was, what I considered to be, an honor when one of the families asked that I be the one to bugle for their relative’s funeral as I had done several details with him over the years.

    Like I said, it was the least that I could do for those guys . . .

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